Friday, April 29, 2005



Every time I travel to Germany, I'm reminded of why I'd like a smart fortwo - they're simply an excellent commuter vehicle. They've got better fuel economy than many motorcycles and offer superior weather protection, and they don't take up much parking space. As for safety, well, I harbor no disillusions about surviving a 55 MPH impact with a Lincoln Navigator in one, but I don't see where that makes them a bad choice (last I checked, bicycle and pedestrian traffic still fares far worse in 35 MPH offset collisions). Too bad they're not being brought to the US, and it sounds like the division's going to get the ax due to annual losses averaging a half-billion dollars.

Part of the problem has to be the pricing - over $10K for the base model, and approaching $15K for an upscale version. Sure, you get lots of features for the money (stability control, automated manual transmission, etc.), but that's a lot of coin for what should be a stripped-down city car.

And now owners have to be worried about this as well.

I'm also reminded of why I really, really want a Unimog. It looks like a go-anywhere medium-duty truck, but really it goes beyond that and is more like a tractor than a truck. Indeed, Mercedes refers to it as an "implement carrier". I've seen these things decked-out in all sort of configurations for municipal use, ranging from snowblowers to bucket trucks and hedge trimmers (with a 8-foot-wide sickle-bar mower hanging off the side). This time, I saw one that had a woodchipper running off the rear PTO. Too cool. Haven't decided whether I want a 'mog, or a US 2.5- or 5-ton truck. That's not an easy decision to make. Either one can be had on the surplus market for less than a new compact pickup, though.

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